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Games: Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster offers a double dose of retro blast-’em-up fun

A scene from Star Wars: Dark Forces featuring two Imperial Stormtroopers
Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster .

Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster (Multi, Nightdive)

Doom changed everything. 1993′s sci-fi splatterfest played out like Aliens meets Evil Dead, as players unloaded digital bullets into demons’ backsides in the first truly great first-person shooter.

Soon, everyone wanted a slice of the action, none more so than LucasArts, who in 1995 showed the genre had more to offer than cramped corridors and snarling hellspawn.

Balletic lightsaber battles may look good on the big screen, but you can’t beat lining up a stormtrooper in your sights, and in 1995 – long before Star Wars took a nosedive with Episode One – Dark Forces let players get trigger-happy in a galaxy far, far away.

After stewing in a bacta tank, the iconic ‘90s shooter and its sequel are finally back for a double dose of nostalgia.

Sandwiched between the original trilogy and Phantom Menace, Kyle Katarn turns his back on the Empire to become a one-man rebel army, tasked with stealing the plans for the original Death Star. Cue some old-school run ‘n’ gun hoo-ha that elevated the genre above Doom’s simplistic grunge.

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A scene from Star Wars: Dark Forces
Star Wars: Dark Forces .

With levels featuring multiple floors and objectives to complete – from searching for prisoners to collecting plans – Dark Forces set the template for Goldeneye, as gamers tooled up with an arsenal of iconic weapons and took on waves of Imperial scum.

For the first time in a shooter, players no longer felt like they were in a neck brace and could look up and down, duck and jump, while the gameplay was enlivened by notoriously tricksy puzzles. With passcodes to discover and deviously hidden buttons to press, Dark Forces involved much more than shooting anything that moves, and its infamous sewer level is the stuff of childhood trauma for my generation.

Spruced up for current hardware, its visuals now run at a flawless 60fps in 4K on consoles, and the whole shebang can even be enjoyed in its original SD state for a 20th Century nostalgia ride.

A scene from Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster
Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster Blast 'em!

However, no amount of industrial light and magic can hide the fact that, while groundbreaking for 1995, the Jedi Engine is showing its age, with simplistic, blocky levels that look like Teletext does Star Wars and charmingly cheesy cut-scenes.

At least the sound design holds up, with the shriek of blaster fire and John Williams’ parping ditties eliciting a warm Pavlovian response from fortysomething man-kids.

With Disney holding the purse-strings, we’ve been choking down Star Wars content of late, but Dark Forces is a blast from a past when the franchise was just fun. The Force is strong with this no-nonsense retro shooter that tastefully preserves the feel of the original, warts and all.

“Great shot, kid”, as Han might say.

Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster box art
Star Wars: Dark Forces Remaster .

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